Maj. Gen. Herzi Halevi
Maj. Gen. Herzi HaleviShahar Azran

The head of the IDF Military Intelligence, Maj. Gen. Hertzi Halevi, told the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces (FIDF) annual National Gala in New York Tuesday night that Israel must be “prepared” for new conflicts along its northern border with Syria, whose internal violence seems like “50 shades of black.”

The FIDF raised $24 million, as more than 1,200 prominent business and philanthropic leaders from across the country gathered at New York’s Waldorf Astoria hotel to demonstrate their love and support for Israel’s soldiers and FIDF. 

Halevi, in the gala’s keynote address, said that “Syria has long ceased to be the state we all knew four years ago. We call it ‘50 Shades of Black,’ though I must admit I haven’t read the ‘grey’ version. One needs to take only a glimpse at their inner executions to understand why we must be prepared in the northern border.”

The head of the Israel Defense Forces Military Intelligence, Maj. Gen. Hertzi Halevi, speaking at tonight’s FIDF National NY Gala.
The head of the Israel Defense Forces Military Intelligence, Maj. Gen. Hertzi Halevi, speaking at tonight’s FIDF National NY Gala.Shahar Azran

The head of IDF intelligence also said that the so-called Arab Spring has turned into a wider religious war redrawing the Middle East. “The maps of our area have been changing in front of our eyes. Borders drawn more than a century ago are being recklessly erased. The upheaval in the Middle East has turned into a religious struggle among armed factions,” said Halevi.

FIDF National Board Member Rabbi Peter Weintraub served as Dinner Chairman. Weintraub, who specializes in rabbinic outreach, has been an avid FIDF supporter for 12 years and has sponsored academic scholarships for over 70 IDF combat veterans through FIDF’s IMPACT! Scholarship Program.

“Over the dozen years that I’ve been involved in FIDF, I’ve been privileged to see how this organization makes a powerful difference in the lives of the brave men and women who defend and protect Israel – and the Jewish People,” said Rabbi Weintraub. “This Gala provided a wonderful, stirring opportunity for us to say thanks, and to stand proudly with them.”

Special guests included 30 IDF soldiers of various ranks and military units, including Second Lt. Inbal, an educational officer in the Artillery Corps, whose brother, First Sgt. Avi, was shot and killed in Bet Hanoun, near Gaza, during Operation Protective Edge this past summer. Addressing the audience, Second Lt. Inbal shared her personal memories of her brother, who posthumously received a citation for his bravery. Most of the soldiers who attended the Gala received citations for heroism, including in Operation Protective Edge and Operation Pillar of Defense.

Members of the US Army Color Guard; Maj. Gen. (Res.) Meir Klifi-Amir; and IDF soldiers.
Members of the US Army Color Guard; Maj. Gen. (Res.) Meir Klifi-Amir; and IDF soldiers.Shahar Azran

Other prominent guests included FIDF National Chairman Nily Falic; FIDF National Director and CEO Maj. Gen. (Res.) Meir Klifi-Amir; Rabbi Weintraub and his wife, Ellen; FIDF Chairmen Emeritus Arthur Stark,Larry Hochberg, and Marvin Josephson; FIDF National Director and CEO Emeritus Maj. Gen. (Res.) Yitzhak (Jerry) Gershon; and FIDF National Board Member and YL-NY President Emeritus Tony Felzen.

Israel’s Prime Minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, greeted the audience via satellite, and thanked them for their invaluable support for Israel’s soldiers.

$24 million was raised by the evening’s end. Notable among the donations was a $2 million anonymous matching gift made towards the FIDF Formal Education Program, which allows soldiers to complete 12 years of high-school education as part of their military service. In addition, $5 million was pledged by The Marcus Foundation with Nefesh B’Nefesh to benefit Lone Soldiers; $1.5 million was pledged by President of FIDF NY Young Leadership (YL) Lemor Bar-Or, on behalf of YL-NY; $1.3 million was pledged by Genesis Philanthropy Group North America; $1.2 million was pledged by the FIDF NY Real Estate Division; $1 million was pledged by Beit Morasha of Jerusalem for Identity and Purpose Programs; $1 million was pledged by Israeli Journey; $600,000 was pledged by the Iranian American Jewish Federation (IAJF); $500,000 was pledged by Hope for Heroism; $500,000 was pledged by Nily Falic; $400,000 was pledged by Joseph Weintraub, Rabbi Weintraub’s son; and $330,000 was pledged by former FIDF National Dinner Chairman Benny Shabtai.

Funds raised at the gala will provide much-needed and well-deserved services such as academic scholarships to former combat soldiers, financial support for underprivileged soldiers and Lone Soldiers from around the world, crucial aid for wounded veterans, weeks of rest and recreation for entire IDF units, as well as educational, cultural, and recreational facilities. The evening was a rare and exclusive opportunity to pay tribute to the State of Israel and the brave men and women in uniform. In 2014, for the first time in its history, FIDF raised over $100 million for the well-being of Israeli soldiers.